Archive for the ‘The Muppets’ Category

Disney Talk – Expo Excitement

September 13, 2009

Image © Disney.

Everyone from Kermit the Frog to Miley Cyrus to Captain Jack Sparrow made appearances during the Walt Disney Studios presentation at the D23 Expo.

By Blake

Originally posted September 12, 2009.

What is Disney magic? Is it endearing music? Classic characters? Famous celebrities? The promise of enchanting things to come in the future?

Whatever it is that you personally pinpoint as the source of Disney magic, there’s no denying that it’s being put to use in full force at the outstanding D23 Expo, currently taking place in Anaheim, CA. While I’m not there, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading reports from the various events taking place. Disney magic is being used so much that ALL of the above examples have already been implemented, and the convention isn’t even over yet. The Expo’s Walt Disney Studios presentation was certainly no exception.

The presentation took place yesterday, September 11, 2009, and was hosted by Dick Cook, Chairman of the Walt Disney Studios.

Among the highlights of the presentation were a 20-minute medley of classic Disney songs performed by a live orchestra, a performance by Miley Cyrus of “The Climb,” and sneak peeks of upcoming Disney films. On hand to promote upcoming titles were Robert Zemeckis, director of Disney’s A Christmas Carol; John Travolta with family members Kelly Preston and Ella Bleu from Old Dogs; Tim Burton, director of Alice in Wonderland; Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and Sorcerer’s Apprentice; and actor Nicholas Cage from Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Also during the presentation, Disney announced a new film label called “Disney Double Dare You.” The movies under the label will be scary family films. I’m thinking something along the lines of the film version of The Haunted Mansion? Maybe. Several new Disneynature titles were also announced.

More Disneynature films are on the way. Image © Disney.

However, to me, the real high points of reading the reports from this very special presentation were two major announcements.

Disney has been implementing a slowly-but-surely Muppet comeback for a while now. Some of this return has already begun, given the success of the Muppets’ viral YouTube videos, their Studio DC specials on Disney Channel, and last year’s Christmas special A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa on NBC. There’s been lots of talk floating around about the Muppets returning to the big screen in a huge way, and yesterday Disney finally officially announced the title of this upcoming adventure in a stellar way.

How stellar? How about a cast of Muppets appearing live on a scaled-down Mark Twain riverboat?!? Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Pepe the King Prawn, and many more of their friends appeared to perform several songs, as well as announce their film’s title. The movie will be called The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made, which is quite curious considering that Jim Henson himself had batted around an identical title. I love the Muppets and am very excited to see what this new film has in store for them.

The Muppets appeared on a riverboat at the D23 Expo to announce their upcoming film, The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made. Image © Disney.

The last surprise of the presentation was a quite a doozey. You might even call it swashbuckling. I would have loved to see the shocked faces of attendees as Johnny Depp appeared on stage as Captain Jack Sparrow! Depp was in-character and also was there to confirm that he would appear in The Lone Ranger as Tonto, and reprise Captain Jack in a fourth Pirates of the Caribbean installment. A new bit of information was announced as the film’s title was revealed – Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, coming summer 2011. I personally can’t wait.

With many exciting movies to look forward to, a new film label getting started, a new Muppet film to get pumped about, and some more news about Pirates, it was quite wonderful as a Disney fan to read all of the reports from the spectacular Walt Disney Studios’ D23 Expo presentation. “Bring me that horizon.”

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted September 12, 2009. All images © Disney.

BlakeOnline Special – Imagineering “Blue Sky” Session 2009

June 26, 2009
Image © Disney.

It’s that time of year for batting around ideas for the Disney parks!

By Blake

Originally posted June 26, 2009.

Most Disney fans probably have at least a few creative ideas or thoughts for how they would tweak the Disney parks if they were given the opportunity to do so. If they were an Imagineer – a member of the part of the Walt Disney Company responsible for creating the Disney park attractions – they might have several rides or shows dreamed up and ready to put into action.

It’s always fun to pretend, and so for the sole purpose of just having fun, I welcome you to the 2nd annual Imagineering “Blue Sky” Session here on BlakeOnline. “Blue Sky” is a term used by Imagineers at the very beginning stages of creating new attractions. During Blue Sky, ideas are batted around and introduced for the first time, and concepts and stories are just getting started.

Here we go!

I’ve talked a lot about the changes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World, but even more colossal than that park’s various changes are the ones being put into effect at Disney’s California Adventure in Disneyland. The changes began in the Paradise Pier section of the park in June 2008 with the opening of Toy Story Midway Mania! Additionally, the Games of the Boardwalk recently re-opened featuring classic Disney characters, and the nearby Sun Wheel was re-themed to Mickey’s Fun Wheel.

The surrounding area of Paradise Pier will continue to be the first section of the park that will largely be changed as part of the multi-year DCA expansion. Other nearby attractions are being re-imagined to be themed to classic Disney shorts of the 1930’s and 1940’s, which I think is just wonderful. From the looks of the concept art and attraction descriptions, the area is going to become somewhat of a simpler, more classic-feeling Toontown. Goofy’s Sky School (a re-themed mad-mouse roller coaster) will be based on the Goofy “How-To” shorts, this time with Goofy “teaching” guests how to fly, with a few unplanned diversions (similar to the storyline of The Barnstormer at the Magic Kingdom ). Additionally, the Silly Symphony Swings will be themed to the 1935 classic Mickey Mouse short The Band Concert, complete with dazzling new special effects.

Silly Symphony Swings at Disney’s California Adventure are expected to be themed to the 1935 Mickey Mouse cartoon The Band Concert. Image © Disney.

Coming to Paradise Pier in spring 2010 is World of Color, a new water show featuring a hoopla of classic Disney characters in a spectacle that supposedly will knock the socks of its viewers. In 2011, Paradise Pier will become the home of The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, a new dark ride that ironically was supposed to be built years ago at Disneyland.

The California Adventure expansion is expected to continue in 2012 with new theming to its entrance, which will depict Hollywood in the 1920’s, when Walt Disney was first arriving to the city. Additionally, an entire new area of the park will open in 2012 – Cars Land, themed to the 2006 Pixar film Cars. The area will include multiple new attractions that sound very exciting, and the atmosphere will make guests feel like they’re walking through Radiator Springs.

Cars Land, themed to the Pixar film Cars, is scheduled to open in Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland in 2012. Image © Disney/Pixar.

Although I’ve never visited California Adventure, all of these upcoming additions sound very appealing, and hopefully they’ll be introduced to other Disney parks soon!

As we “keep moving forward” and press on to Walt Disney World in Florida, as of right now, no massive upcoming projects have been officially announced. There are plenty of wild rumors going around, but nothing’s been confirmed just yet.

There are a few smaller attractions scheduled, though. On June 29, the Pirates League will open in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland as a place where pirate fans can come to get pirate makeovers, similar to the Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boutique having princess makeovers. The Hall of Presidents is indeed expected to be re-opening with its newest member, Barack Obama, sometime within the coming weeks, and Space Mountain is supposed to be re-opening after a rather lengthy refurbishment in November, but other than those nothing very big is planned.

Space Mountain is expected to re-open in November at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Image © Disney.

However, that’s not to say that I don’t have a few ideas.

At the Magic Kingdom, I like how Disney is continuing the Pirates of the Caribbean craze in Adventureland with the Pirates League opening. Although I certainly don’t think that the entire land should be re-themed to Pirates, I admire that Disney isn’t just letting the franchise sit there waiting for the next movie to be released.

As for character greetings, I think a Captain Jack Sparrow meet & greet would be extremely popular given how well his appearances at the now-defunct Pirate & Princess Parties went. Additionally, even though they attract very long lines, the Princesses and the Fairies would probably fit into Fantasyland better than they do at their current location in Mickey’s Toontown Fair.

Also at the Magic Kingdom is the show Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration over in Tomorrowland. The show opened in early May, 2009, and will have its final performance on Saturday, June 27, 2009. It wasn’t meant to be a seasonal attraction, it just altogether wasn’t pleasing guests and Disney decided to do away with the show completely. Which, in essence, I don’t think is quite giving the show a proper chance. If Disney were to focus more on Stitch and less on the dancers, put the show into the Galaxy Palace Theater (which was recently closed), and perhaps involved Mickey and Minnie into the plot (maybe something like the Castle shows?), I think Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration would be a better experience. Or if they were to focus on just the Stitch aspect of the show, which involved a computer-animated Stitch interacting and talking with park guests (like Stitch Live at Disneyland Paris), maybe that would be a better solution.

Over at Epcot, the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure – somewhat of a scavenger hunt themed to the now-concluded Disney Channel show Kim Possible throughout select World Showcase pavilions – has been wow’ing guests since it opened in February, and Remy from Ratatouille has been enchanting guests with his appearances at the Le Chefs de France restaurant.

Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure is a new experience at Walt Disney World’s Epcot in Florida. Image © Disney.

Some changes I might make to Epcot would include perhaps re-theming Test Track to incorporate characters from Cars. It would be a great opportunity to freshen up a classic ride. Though some purists might not like the idea, I think the concept of Lightning McQueen teaching guests what sort of tests racecars go through before they head to the track would be an engaging storyline.

Pixar’s newest film, Up, has dazzled audiences since it was released in May, and due to its success I can definitely see it being a candidate for future theme park presence. But where would the film fit? Although it might work out in Hollywood Studios’ Pixar Place or in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland, overall the movie would probably feel most at home in Epcot for several reasons. Firstly, flight is a component that’s important in Up, and it’s also an experience that would fit in Epcot’s Soarin’ attraction, though I’m not sure how Up’s characters or story would work into that ride. A more appropriate addition would be some sort of South America pavilion in World Showcase, featuring a version of Paradise Falls (a setting from the film), as well as some sort of dark ride themed to the movie.

The lush setting of Paradise Falls in Up would be wonderful for a South America pavilion in Epcot. Image © Disney/Pixar.

Heading to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Enchanted would be wonderful if it was put on stage, and this park is an excellent choice to put such as show. The park’s Premiere Theater (which is currently used for special events) would be wise for the show’s location, as it’s right in the New York section of the park, and Enchanted takes place primarily in New York. Additionally, a Pixar Place expansion would be fascinating – re-theming the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure to an area based on a bug’s life would be appropriate, and a nearby thrill ride based on the Monsters, Inc. door sequence would be brilliant. Some sort of Bolt attraction would also fit into Hollywood Studios, though not necessarily in the Pixar Place area.

Another idea would be to refurbish Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D. Now would be a fitting time to do this, especially since Disney is currently in the process of re-launching the Muppet franchise. I don’t think the 3-D film itself should be changed, but some re-mastering and sprucing up of the footage would be nice. Additionally, perhaps some new pre-show or post-show elements could be added that would feature Muppet characters that weren’t around when Muppet*Vision initially opened (like Pepe the King Prawn). Some atmosphere around Muppet*Vision could also be enhanced to further involve guests in a Muppety area, such as bringing back the Muppet Mobile Lab (which had brief appearances in Disney’s California Adventure and Epcot) or adding some Muppet character greetings.

A refurbishment of Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D at Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be great timing with Disney’s current re-launch of the Muppet franchise. Image © Disney.

Lastly, trekking over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I think the only area that needs a little work is the Dino-Rama! section of DinoLand U.S.A. The atmosphere’s storyline doesn’t come across very straightforward to guests, though the rides in the area (including the fun TriceraTop Spin and the exciting Primeval Whirl) are certainly keepers.

That concludes this year’s Imagineering Blue Sky Session! Feel free to create some ideas of your own. Get those creative gears flowing – who knows, you might just dream up the next Disney park classic.

By Blake; posted June 26, 2009. All images © Disney. Cars and Up images © Disney/Pixar.

BlakeOnline Special – BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards 2009 Winners

June 24, 2009

Image © Disney/Pixar.

The winners for the inaugural BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards.

By Blake

Originally posted June 24, 2009.

This year, BlakeOnline is the home of the inaugural BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards! A “Bullseye” has been given to a variety of Disney-related (and some non-Disney-related) productions that I think deserve some extra attention. I chose the “Bullseye” name to keep with the Toy Story theme that began with the new “Buzz” quarterly updates. Hopefully, this will become an annual BlakeOnline event. The Bullseye nominees were announced on June 8, 2009, and the winners are in! How were the winners determined among the nominees? Well, I just chose them. Although it would make sense for Disney fans to choose what they think should win, at this point it was simpler for me to choose the results based on what I’ve observed around the Disney community.

In the future, I plan to give nominations to projects that were released within a one-year time frame (from mid-May to mid-May), but since this is the first year of the Bullseye Awards, I’m gone with an 18-month time frame, from mid-November 2007 through mid-May 2009.

Here are the winners (and runner-ups) for the inaugural BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards!! A * indicates a category that includes (but is not limited to) non-Disney nominees.

Best Movie – Enchanted

This movie has the workings of a true modern Disney classic. Many of the components that have made up previous Disney masterpieces were present, including endearing characters, superb music (provided by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, who earned three Academy-Award nominations), and a subtle focus on animation, even though most of the movie was in a live-action format. The film consisted of an animated heroine named Giselle (played by Amy Adams) being thrust from her home in Andalasia and into the real world. Giselle’s groom-to-be Prince Edward (James Marsden) journeys after her in an effort to return her home, while Giselle is taken in by a flustered man named Robert (Patrick Dempsey). Ultimately the movie’s highest points come as Giselle takes New York by storm as she enchants the city with her charming antics, including breaking out into song and communicating with “woodland” creatures. The film also has a strong emphasis on many Disney references, sure to keep Disney fans paying close attention to detail.

Enchanted wins Best Movie. Image © Disney.

Best Movie Runner-Up – Bolt

Bolt had the feel of a classic Disney animated film. It certainly had taken great care to create its main characters, especially Rhino, the hilarious hamster. Its plot consisted of a dog named Bolt headlining his own TV series, thinking all of his powers from the show are real. This proves to be a problem when he accidentally finds himself in New York, having to trek back home to Hollywood with a sly cat named Mittens and an obsessive fan named Rhino the hamster in tow. Overall I think Bolt was culminated together rather nicely, and hopefully it’s a hint at what’s yet to come from Walt Disney Animation Studios in the coming years.

Best TV Show* – American Idol Season 7

2008’s American Idol contestants possibly revolutionized the competition by adding their own distinctive styles to their performances. With contestants being allowed to use instruments on stage for the first time, the show dramatically changed from looking for the best singer to looking for the best artist – someone who could add their personality into their performances and change up arrangements to better suit them. David Cook achieved this excellently throughout the season, and ended up winning. Cook’s debut self-titled rock album was released in November, and he’s now on tour. In second place was David Archuleta, who has since also released a self-titled album, made appearances on Nickelodeon’s iCarly and Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana, and is now touring with Demi Lovato.

American Idol Season 7 wins Best TV Show. Image © Fox.

Best TV Show Runner-Up* – American Idol Season 8

Again, contestants had to step it up to change their performances and define themselves as artists in another unforgettable season. Kris Allen eventually won.

Best TV Special/Movie* – A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa

I can’t express how ecstatic I was when I found out that the Muppets would be returning to TV for a one-hour Christmas special. Part of an ongoing effort to bring the Muppets back (which is expected to continue with more upcoming projects), A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa debuted on NBC in December, 2008, and delivered a wholeheartedly quality Muppet production filled with heart, hilarity, and even a few delightful new songs (which were written by Paul Williams). The special had Kermit and friends delivering several lost letters to Santa Claus. In true Muppet fashion, everything doesn’t go exactly as planned.

A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa wins Best TV Special/Movie. Image © Disney.

Best TV Special/Movie Runner-Up* – American Idol Season 8 Finale

A real showstopper, this finale had many surprise appearances and amazing performances. Keith Urban, Kiss, Lionel Richie, Cyndi Lauper, Jason Mraz, David Cook, Queen, and more were among the highlights. Additionally, the season’s top thirteen contestants were all brought back to perform, and the night ended with Kris Allen being named 2009’s American Idol winner.

Best Acting – Amy Amy Adams as Giselle in Enchanted
The naïve, curious, and awed Giselle was played wonderfully by Amy Adams in Enchanted. In the live-action scenes, the movement and rhythm of Adams’ actions conveyed Giselle’s character excellently. In the animated sequences, the deliverance of Giselle’s diction and speech again brought the character to the screen marvelously.

Amy Adams wins Best Acting for her performance as Giselle in Enchanted. Image © Disney.

Best Acting Runner-Up – Ashley Tisdale as Sharpay in High School Musical 3: Senior Year


Already proving from the first two High School Musical movies that she could diversify her roles to become both the kind Maddie in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody as well as the devious Sharpay in HSM, Ashley Tisdale stepped up her game for the third HSM installment to bring an excellent performance. Devious, attention-getting, and clever all describe Sharpay and all were performed superbly by Tisdale, who once again delivered a solid performance.

Best Song – “That’s How You Know” from Enchanted
Written by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz

Enchanted’s lavish production number, “That’s How You Know” had Giselle (played by Amy Adams) gallivanting around Central Park in an effort to bring cheer and happiness to citizens, as well as teach them how they should treat their loved ones. The song is one of the best new Disney tunes in years, and was released on the DisneyMania 6 CD in May, 2008, sung by Demi Lovato.

“That’s How You Know” written by Alan Meken and Stephen Schwartz wins Best Song. Image © Disney.

Best Song Runner-Up – “I Want It All” from High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Written by Matthew Gerrard and Robbie Nevil

Describing the personality of Sharpay Evans (played by Ashley Tisdale) to a tee in one single song, “I Want It All” consists of pretty selfish lyrics when just reading the words, but when watching it performed on screen in High School Musical 3: Senior Year, it does its job quite well to convey the personalities of two of the movie’s main characters and to deliver an important plot point. The lyrics creatively spin dialogue into melodies and suit the Sharpay and Ryan characters wonderfully. The songwriting here is just right.

Best DVD – Mary Poppins 45th Anniversary Edition

Definitely one of my favorite Disney movies ever, Mary Poppins came to DVD again in January, 2009, with most of the wonderful bonus features that were included on 2004’s 40th Anniversary Edition of the film, as well as new supplements going behind the scenes of the Broadway production of Mary Poppins. The movie’s DVD would be magnificent if it contained nothing but the film itself, but the addition of the many DVD bonuses makes it a very satisfying set.

Mary Poppins 45th Anniversary Edition wins Best DVD. Image © Disney.

Best DVD Runner-Up – Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland Secrets, Stories, & Magic

This DVD was released as part of the Walt Disney Treasures series in December, 2007, and includes a truly great new documentary tracing the history of Disneyland and what went into initially creating the park. Bonuses include an entertaining Disney trivia game, a very fascinating presentation (and commentary) of People and Places: Disneyland, U.S.A., several episodes of The Wonderful World of Color, a pleasant art gallery, and more.

Best Internet Video Series* – Disney Park Characters


These are a range of hilarious videos recorded by various Disneyland and Walt Disney World park guests focusing on the happenings of the Mad Hatter, Alice, Peter Pan, the Tremaines, and other characters throughout the parks. What’s so great about these is that – unlike the other candidates for this Bullseye category – most of them are of real events throughout the Disney parks that weren’t scripted, showing the true enchantment that exists in Disney’s characters and Cast Members. Links: Users Briberry, Disleanne, SkeletonStockings, MadHattress330, forevermeg4u.

Best Internet Video Series Runner-Up* – Muppets.com

Began in February, 2008, this is a collection of official Muppet videos featuring Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Pepe, Rizzo, and even some of the lesser-known characters like Bobo the Bear and Beauregard. The videos have been continuously added to the website since the site’s initial launch, and now contain enough material to provide quite a while of hilarious entertainment. They’re definitely worth checking out.

That wraps up this year’s BlakeOnline Bullseye Awards! Congratulations to all of the winners!

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted June 24, 2009. All images © Disney EXCEPT: Bullseye image © Disney/Pixar; American Idol image © Fox.

Blake’s Picks – Top 5 Hollywood Studios Attractions

May 17, 2009

The best of Walt Disney World’s third theme park.

By Blake

Originally posted May 16, 2009.

First of all, I’d just like to point out some news about The Imagineering Field Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which I had originally reported was going to be released on April 28. However, that was apparently a misunderstanding, as the book is now scheduled to be released in July 2010. StitchKingdom.com also experienced some confusion while trying to purchase the book.

So, although that’s not-so-great news, the celebration rolls on here at BlakeOnline to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

If you haven’t yet seen coverage of the festivities from DHS’s 20th anniversary event that occurred on Friday, May 1, 2009, you can check some pictures and videos out at StudiosCentral.com, AllEars.net, LaughingPlace.com, and AttractionsMagazine.com.

Although Walt Disney World’s official happenings for DHS’s birthday lasted one day, I thought it would be suitable to continue to post DHS-themed articles to commemorate the park’s anniversary. The park contains some of the individual best attractions in all of Walt Disney World. From exciting thrills to showstoppers to a hysterical 3-D movie, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is home to several of my Disney favorites.

To share with you some of my DHS favorites and to also celebrate the parks’ 20th anniversary, here’s a list of my top five favorite attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (Note that I have not yet ridden Toy Story Midway Mania! and have not yet seen The American Idol Experience, so those two are not included in this list because I haven’t seen them.)


5. Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream

A tribute to the life and aspirations of Walt Disney, the first part of this attraction is a walk-through, museum-like exhibit, while the next part is a short movie about Walt Disney. A Disney fan could spend a while in the exhibit part, looking at all of the displays, models, pictures, and other various items sprinkled throughout the building.

Guests can see many displays at Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream, including (clockwise from top left) the “skeleton” of an Audio-Animatronics figure, a model of a rocket that was formerly in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, the “dancing man” figure, and an Audio-Animatronics tiki bird.

The attraction debuted in 2001, appropriately during the 100 Years of Magic celebration (which was held for Walt Disney’s 100th birthday). One Man’s Dream recently became sponsored by D23, the new official Disney fan club, and now features a new display advertising D23. Also new in One Man’s Dream is a special look at the history of Disney’s Hollywood Studios to celebrate the park’s 20th anniversary (similar to the exhibit that was set up in Epcot for its 25th anniversary).

Although I haven’t experienced One Man’s Dream since 2004, The Complete Walt Disney World by Julie and Mike Neal reports that the attraction doesn’t have a wait most of the day. This means that the attraction is especially beneficial to those having some spare time while waiting for their Fastpass return time for Toy Story Midway Mania!, which is located just down the street, on Pixar Place. (One Man’s Dream is located between Pixar Place and Animation Courtyard.)

4. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

I enjoy most thrill rides, but sometimes I know to stay clear of an attraction if it’s going to give me a headache or cause nausea. If I choose not to ride something, it’s usually because I don’t want to experience negative side effects, not because I’m afraid of the ride itself. But the Tower of Terror just plain creeps me out, even when any side effects aren’t considered. But I love it.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is scarily fun.

When I say the Tower of Terror creeps me out, I mean it creeps me out in a good way. How can creepy be good? In this case, Disney sets the eerie storyline up brilliantly, building up the anticipation of your elevator ascent even before you arrive in the line. Just the sight of the looming Hollywood Tower Hotel (the fictional resort that the attraction is housed in) over Sunset Blvd. sparks hints of curiosity and a bit of fear inside guests. The line, filled with dusty objects and cobwebbed walls, helps set the spooky mood. The preshow room in the “library” tells guests the fictitious story of five people who were in the Tower’s elevator and, as the elevator was struck by lightning, were taken up and down the hotel’s elevator shaft. As guests then enter the second part of the line (which is a dark “boiler room”), suspense builds even more. By the time I’m instructed to stand upon a numbered spot to board the elevator, I’m personally just plain scared. It’s not 100% fear, knowing that it’s just a ride and that everything will be OK, but it’s still fear nonetheless.

Then the real fun starts as the ride begins and guests experience the up-and-down movements of the elevator. The Tower of Terror is one of Disney’s best thrill rides, and probably one of the best story-driven Disney attractions. It does a great job of delivering guests the story upfront and then putting guests into that story. It’s pulled off wonderfully, making the Tower of Terror one of Hollywood Studios’ most popular attractions.

3. Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage

One of the absolute best live productions on Disney property, Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage retells the classic Disney animated film magnificently. The Academy-Award winning music accentuated by the sets, characters, and background dancers all culminate together to create an amazing experience.

Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage is one of Walt Disney World’s best shows.

The show is performed in the Theater of the Stars, an outdoor covered venue on Sunset Blvd., just down the street from the Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. The show opened on November 22, 1991, the same day as its film counterpart. Formerly, a popular preshow included four “crew members” “spontaneously” performing songs. The group, called Four For a Dollar, was unfortunately cut from the show in 2008.

The story of Beauty and the Beast is condensed into about 30 minutes for the show, so at times it may feel a bit rushed and some points in the plot may be fuzzy to those who haven’t seen the movie. However, that doesn’t take away from the overall wonderful quality of the production.

As one of Disney’s best animated movies, Beauty and the Beast makes a spectacular transition to the stage. Since the Broadway version of the story is no longer performing, it’s great that guests can still get a chance to see a live adaptation of it after over 17 years of dazzling audiences, making Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage close to the top of my list of DHS must-sees.

2. Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D

My favorite Muppet production of all time (yep, that’s right), this hysterical 3-D movie is classic Muppet humor at its best. From the minute you walk into the line, you know you’ve entered a Muppet community. The detail in the props during the line and preshow is outstanding. Fun little trinkets and items are scattered everywhere, all with their own touch of subtle wit.

Fozzie Bear, Kermit the Frog, and other Muppets deliver plenty of fun in Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D.

Guests are treated to a hilarious pre-show video featuring Sam the Eagle, Gonzo, Rizzo, and other Muppets before heading into the Muppet Theater to view the main show. The 3-D movie features favorite Muppets touring the audience around the Muppet Labs before performing several musical acts, none of which go as planned. The show includes several appearances by Muppets in Audio-Animatronics form, such as Statler and Waldorf, who sit in their balcony seats.

Muppet*Vision 3-D usually has a short line, which makes it a great candidate for an attraction to experience in the afternoon, when the more crowded attractions have long waits. However, lack of crowds at Muppet*Vision 3-D make me a little nervous as to what Disney may think of this situation. If not many people are seeing it, is Disney viewing it as an attraction that needs to be replaced? I certainly hope not. A refurbishment might be nice, but if Disney decided to do away with the show or change the show in some way, many fans would probably be very upset. It does seem ironic that this would have a short line, though, because it seems to be one of the most overall best crowd pleasers in the entire park. It’s definitely one of my favorite Walt Disney World attractions.

1. Fantasmic!
I must say, I had a very hard time choosing between Muppet*Vision 3-D and Fantasmic! as I decided my #1 Hollywood Studios pick. I enjoy both attractions immensely, but when it came down to it, I chose the winner by determining the level of Disney magic that each attraction has. Which one has an extra Disney touch that makes its guests feel that nostalgic, reflective emotion that sums up the entire Disney experience in a moment of realization, movement, and appreciation not only for the show they’re viewing but also for the wonderful family and friends they’re viewing with? Muppet*Vision 3-D has its own wacky sense of Disney wonderment, but when put up against Fantasmic! where that extra Disney mile is concerned, Fantasmic! takes the win for me.
Guests get a peak into Mickey Mouse’s dreams in Fantasmic!

After premiering at Disneyland in 1992, Fantasmic! debuted at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 1998 in a 9,900-seat amphitheater on Sunset Blvd. It tells the story of how Mickey Mouse’s enchanting dream turns to a nightmare as Disney villains take over. Of course, good triumphs over evil in the end, which results in what has to be one of Disney’s best grand finales ever.
The show conveys its story in several different ways, including live performers, water screens (showing video clips), lights, fireworks, floats, and more. Over three dozen Disney characters make appearances, as well.

Those are my picks for the best attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Each of them has their own unique factors that make them one of my favorites. Between them all, they provide five brilliant Disney experiences.

Related BlakeOnline articles:

By Blake; posted May 16, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

BlakeOnline Special – Keep Moving Forward in 2009

February 2, 2009

Disney fans have a lot to celebrate about in 2009, including exciting movie releases, deluxe DVD sets, and new theme park entertainment.


By Blake

Originally posted February 1, 2009.

2008 served Mickey Mouse quite well. Although some might say that because of the recessing economy, Disney is plummeting downhill with the rest of the country (which is not true, but we’ll get to that later), it’s actually been quite the opposite in 2008 for the Walt Disney Company. It seems that they’re finally right where they should be in all areas of their company, knowing who to market what to and realizing what works for them and what doesn’t. And now that they know this, we can be assured that plenty more magic will be sprinkled up in 2009.

Movies
2008 was filled with numerous in-theater, live-action family Disney movies that had everyone singing, laughing, crying, and, at one point, had an entire theater full of tween girls having a jam session. In February, Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert hit select theaters for limited showings that proved just how far a simple Disney Channel sitcom had come since becoming a full-blown, beyond-TV franchise. In March, Raven-Symone appeared in her second in-theater Disney movie, College Road Trip, alongside Martin Lawrence and Donny Osmond. It was a delightful comedy that had kids laughing and parents tearing up. In May, the second film in the Narnia series was released, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Just as action-packed and magical as the first, Prince Caspian was quite a treat. In October, Beverly Hills Chihuahua was released. Although I didn’t see it, the film’s initial teaser trailer grabbed the attention of many, and whether or not people liked it, it granted the film a large amount of publicity. Also in October, Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Lucas Grabeel, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman, and the rest of the Wildcats made the transition from television sets to the silver screen as the epic High School Musical phenomenon capped off a three-year span of Wildcat mania with the release of High School Musical 3: Senior Year. Proving itself to be much more than an average musical, the film had a broad appeal and contained real Disney magic placed all throughout it. Finally, the Christmas Day release of Bedtime Stories told of Adam Sandler’s nightly tales to his nephews coming to life in the real world.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year was released in theaters last October, concluding the ongoing Wildcat mania.

2009 looks to be another promising year for Walt Disney Pictures, with several very exciting releases coming up. On February 27, the Jonas Brothers move from “special guests” in last year’s Hannah Montana concert movie to being in the center spotlight in Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience. Like the Hannah Montana concert movie, the film will be released in select theaters and will take audiences behind the scenes to not only show viewers a Jonas Brothers concert, but also what goes on to put on the show. It will feature guest appearances by the Jonas Brothers’ Camp Rock co-star Demi Lovato, as well as country singer Taylor Swift. On March 13, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (of The Game Plan) will appear alongside Carla Gugino (the Spy Kids’ mother), AnnaSophia Robb (Because of Winn-Dixie, Bridge to Terabithia), and Alexander Ludwig (The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising) in Race to Witch Mountain, a remake of the 1975 Disney classic Escape to Witch Mountain. On April 10, Hannah Montana will follow in the footsteps of Lizzie McGuire to become the second Disney Channel original series to have its own theatrical film when Hannah Montana: The Movie hits the silver screen. An actual movie as opposed to a concert, the film will have Miley stranded in a small town in Tennessee with her family, where she’ll have to permanently choose which side of her double life to officially pursue. The film’s teaser trailer makes it seem epic and on a slightly larger scale than the television series and, if done right, it could end up being something very special for all of those tiny Hannah fans. On April 22 (Earth Day), Disney will somewhat revive its classic True-Life Adventure nature documentary series as it launches its new Disney Nature franchise with the release of the new film Earth. The film will be narrated by James Earl Jones and will tell of three animal families. On July 24, we’ll get to see what happens when Beverly Hills Chihuahua meets Spy Kids when G-Force is released. The movie, which is a Jerry Bruckheimer production, will feature guinea pigs (some of which are voiced by Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz) saving the world. Pirates of the Caribbean’s Bill Nighy (Davy Jones) is also in the film.

The Jonas Brothers come to the big screen for their concert movie, Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, coming to theaters February 27.

Animation
Not only did live-action Disney films hit the silver screen in 2008, but two excellent animated Disney movies were also released, both of which scored “Brilliant” in their BlakeOnline reviews. In June, Pixar’s Wall-E heralded back to the days of silent films with having barely any dialogue and told the heartwarming story of a lonely and abandoned robot, Wall-E, who seized the chance to fall in love when he unknowingly boarded a spaceship. Once again, Pixar performed well with both critics and audiences. In November, Bolt surprised everyone as being possibly the best non-Pixar Disney animated film in years. Its Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature (alongside Wall-E and Kung Fu Panda) only proves that theory even more. (The last non-Pixar Disney animated movie to receive an Oscar nomination was Brother Bear, released in 2003.) Full of richly developed characters and a superlative story, Bolt is a real treasure, and when paired with Wall-E, the two unlikely title heroes perform a vast supply of Pixie Dust to please young and old alike.

In June, Wall-E delighted audiences of all ages with its amazing story and likeable characters.

On the horizon for Disney animation in 2009 are two more new theatrical features a revisit of a classic. On May 29, Pixar takes an elderly man up in the sky as he attaches oodles of balloons to his house in Up, directed by Pete Docter (the same director as Monsters, Inc.). In October, Toy Story will be re-released in select theaters in 3D to promote the forthcoming 2010 new film Toy Story 3. On Christmas Day, Walt Disney Animation Studios will at last return to traditional hand-drawn animation in The Princess and the Frog, a retelling of the classic fairy tale. Set in New Orleans, the movie will feature the voice of Anika Noni Rose as Princess Tiana, the first new Disney Princess since 1998 and the first ever African-American Disney Princess. The movie will be directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, who together also directed The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, and Treasure Planet. The Princess and the Frog will feature original songs and score by Randy Newman. It looks to be a very exciting film indeed. I can’t wait to see the final results come next Christmas.

Tiana, voiced by Anika Noni Rose, is the heroine of the new Disney movie The Princess and the Frog, being released in theaters Christmas Day 2009.

Revitalizing Franchises
2008 also saw the continuation of two major Disney franchises and an expansion in online entertainment. In October, Cars Toons premiered as a series of new short cartoons starring Mater from Cars. The first three shorts debuted on television and continue to air on Disney Channel regularly. A fourth short premiered alongside Bolt a few weeks after Bolt had been released, to entice audiences to see the film again. Cars Toons is the first of many new ways we’ll be seeing the charming characters of Radiator Springs in the next few years. This summer, a new internet game called The World of Cars Online will debut on Disney.com. Following in the footsteps of other Disney games such as Toontown Online, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, Pixie Hollow, and the now-closed Virtual Magic Kingdom, the new Cars game will allow players to create their own character, in this case a car, and communicate with other players in races, games, and activities and also talk to other players in real-time. That’s just the beginning of the forthcoming Cars mania. In summer 2011, Cars 2 will premiere on the silver screen, sure to create plenty of hilarious Disney magic as audiences re-acquaint themselves with Lightning McQueen, Mater, and the rest of the Radiator Springs crew. Additionally, in 2012, Cars Land will open at Disney’s California Adventure in as part of a park-wide expansion.

Lightning McQueen and the rest of the Cars characters will return for the World of Cars Online game, Cars 2 in theaters, and Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland.

Another franchise that was revisited in 2008 centered around Jim Henson’s lovable bunch of furry critters, the Muppets. In February of 2008, a Muppets channel was launched as part of the recently-revamped Disney.com and featured hilarious new videos and games, collectively featuring hours of new footage. The idea was to get the Muppets slowly back in the spotlight again in preparation for an upcoming feature film in 2010, and the plan seems to be working out great. In addition to the main Muppets channel on Disney.com, there are also separate pages devoted to Kermit the frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, the great Gonzo, and Pepe the king prawn. An upcoming page will belong to Animal.

The new Muppets channel on Disney.com provides plenty of hilarious new Muppet videos.

TV
Also part of the epic plan to spotlight the Muppets, a new set of TV specials aired in August and October of 2008 called Studio DC: Almost Live! that featured the Muppets and Disney Channel actors and actresses performing musical numbers and comedy routines. Featuring performers like Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, the Cheetah Girls, David Henrie, and more, Studio DC’s main purpose was to introduce the Muppets to a younger audience through people that the viewers already knew well through other Disney Channel shows. Additionally, a new hour-long Christmas special called A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa aired on NBC in December and marked the Muppets’ return to their classic flair and unforgettable wacky style.

Ashley Tisdale was among the Disney Channel performers who appeared with the Muppets in Studio DC: Almost Live!, a series of two new TV specials.

But the Muppets weren’t the only ones that Disney featured on their television networks in 2008. Disney Channel continued to crank out successful movies and shows. Wizards of Waverly Place and Hannah Montana continued to entertain kids and tweens with new seasons. The Emperor’s New School and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody both had their series finales, with the latter also beginning a new spinoff, The Suite Life on Deck. In the new show, Zack, Cody, London, and Mr. Moseby embark on the S.S. Tipton, a new cruise ship that offers a high school at sea and also introduces audiences to Bailey, a new character played by Debby Ryan. Another new Disney Channel original series that was introduced in 2008 was Phineas and Ferb, an animated show that features two tween boys spending their summer break thinking up inventive new activities to do while their pet platypus Perry secretly sneaks off as a spy. Additionally, several new Disney Channel original movies debuted in 2008, including Minutemen featuring Cory in the House’s Jason Dolley, Camp Rock featuring the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato, and The Cheetah Girls One World featuring the returning actresses Kiely Williams, Sabrina Bryan, and Adrienne Bailon and the titular group of girls.

The Suite Life on Deck debuted as a spin-off of the Disney Channel show The Suite of Zack and Cody. Pictured here is the cast (from left): Phill Lewis as Mr. Moseby, Dylan Sprouse as Zack, Brenda Song as London Tipton, Debby Ryan as Bailey, and Cole Sprouse as Cody.

In 2009, there’s plenty more of excitement from Disney Channel, including two new shows: Sonny With a Chance (premiering February 8), about a girl (Demi Lovato) that gets a part on a variety TV show, and Jonas (premiering this May) featuring the Jonas Brothers playing brothers who live as spies. There will also be three new Disney Channel original movies premiering this year: Dadnapped debuts February 16 and tells the story of a group of kids who have to rescue their friend’s father. The cast includes Emily Osment, Jason Earles, and Moises Arias from Hannah Montana, David Henrie from Wizards of Waverly Place, Phill Lewis from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and The Suite Life on Deck, Denzel Whitaker from Nickelodeon’s All That, Jonathan Keltz, and Greg Newbern. The next new Disney Channel movie to debut this year will be Hatching Pete featuring Jason Dolley as a teenager who fills in for his friend played by Mitchel Musso as the school mascot, while Musso’s character receives all the misunderstood attention for the mascot’s energetic personality. Lastly, Princess Protection Program will feature Demi Lovato as a princess trying to fit in the real world with the help of her friend, played by Selena Gomez. To me, this sounds a lot like 2007’s Enchanted.

Not only will Disney Channel continue to produce new material in 2009, but Toon Disney will also have a major revamp in February, when it officially will change its name to Disney XD. Marketed towards boys, the channel will feature original new shows, as well as already-established Disney Channel favorites.

DVD’s
2008 saw the arrival of several anticipated DVD releases. Enchanted and National Treasure: Book of Secrets were released in the spring after their in-theater runs, animated treasures such as The Aristocats and The Sword in the Stone were given re-releases, The Nightmare Before Christmas was given an impressive 2-disc collector’s edition, three new Walt Disney Treasures volumes were released (The Chronological Donald Volume 4, Dr. Syn: Alias the Scarecrow, and The Mickey Mouse Club Presents Annette) on 2-disc sets, and 101 Dalmatians and Sleeping Beauty were given 2-disc platinum releases. Additionally, there were two original direct-to-DVD animated releases: The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning was a prequel to the 1989 Disney classic and Tinker Bell not only gave Tink a voice but also told the story of how the famous Disney fairy got her start in Pixie Hollow, a land deep within Never Land. The film was also the launch of a new Disney Fairies franchise. Lastly, at the end of the year, 2-discs of bonuses were given to Wall-E and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Those two titles along with The Nightmare Before Christmas were the first Disney DVD’s to include a digital copy of their respective films so that viewers can download the movie onto their iPod.

Sleeping Beauty was released on a 2-disc DVD set last October.

2009 looks to be one of the most exciting years for DVD releases in a long time. Just within the next few months, a plethora of very special releases will become available, with more titles coming out next fall. On January 13, four Disney TV movies came to DVD: Gepetto, A Knight in Camelot, Mail to the Chief, and Smart House. On January 27, Mary Poppins 45th Anniversary Edition was released on a 2-disc set that features all of the bonuses from the 40th Anniversary Edition, as well as a new look at the Broadway version of the story. Also on January 27, Corbin Bleu is the voice of the titular animated character in the new live-action film Secret of the Magic Gourd. On February 3, another new direct-to-DVD live-action movie will be released, Space Buddies, the third move in the series of tales about Air Bud’s children. Also on February 3, Oliver & Company will be released on a 20th Anniversary Edition that will include a making-of featurette, a new game, and two Pluto shorts. On February 10, two Disney Channel shows will come to DVD with Wizards of Waverly Place: Supernaturally Stylin’ and Phineas and Ferb: The Daze of Summer. On February 17, the Wildcat mania continues with High School Musical 3: Senior Year, which will be available on both 1- and 2-disc DVD formats, as well as on Blu-ray. Including a digital copy of the film, all releases will include a “cast goodbye” featurette and the 2-disc and Blu-ray releases will include deleted scenes, bloopers, and more. Additionally, the original High School Musical will be released on Blu-ray on February 17. March 3 is all about dogs, with the DVD and Blu-ray releases of Beverly Hills Chihuahua (which feature deleted scenes, an audio commentary, a look at the dogs’ voices, a new short, and more) and the special edition DVD of Air Bud, which includes a commentary of the movie by the Air Buddies, Air Bud’s kids. March 10 will kick off a new DVD series, the Walt Disney Family Classics. Although I’m not sure if this will be an ongoing series or a one-time thing, the first two titles in the series will be Escape to Witch Mountain (just in time for its theatrical re-make) and its sequel Return to Witch Mountain. Both releases will include an audio commentary, new pop-up trivia facts, and more. March 10 is also the release date of the highly anticipated Pinocchio 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition, a great 2-disc set which marks the first time the classic film has been released since 2000. On March 17, the Playhouse Disney show Bunnytown will come to DVD with Bunnytown: Hello Bunnies. March 24 will mark a day of very exciting releases, including Lilo & Stitch “Big Wave” Special Edition, a 2-disc set that includes a special behind-the-scenes documentary. Also on March 24, Bolt will be released on Blu-ray and both 1- and 2-disc DVD formats! I was VERY excited when I found out that Bolt would be getting 2 discs of bonuses, especially since one of those bonuses is a new animated short featuring Rhino. Rounding out the spring DVD calendar are Baby Einstein: World Music and Hannah Montana: Keeping It Real, both on March 31, and My Friends Tigger & Pooh: Tigger, Pooh, and a Musical Too on April 7. Sometime in 2009 (though Disney has not said when), the story of Tinker Bell and her fairy friends will continue in Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, once again a direct-to-DVD/Blu-ray animated production featuring the Disney Fairies. This October, the first animated movie of all time and the film that marked the beginning of Disney feature animation, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, will be released on platinum DVD and Blu-ray.


Lilo & Stitch will be released on a new 2-disc set in March.

Theme Parks
A very significant year for both introducing new attractions as well as taking away others, the Disney theme parks were the subject of many changes in 2008. Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World and Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland both began their multi-year revamps to better change the theme and lineup of their parks and attractions. Hollywood Studios debut the Block Party Bash parade (which was imported from California) and an updated Narnia exhibit which features a look behind-the-scenes of Prince Caspian. California Adventure premiered the new Pixar Play Parade, an energetic parade which features characters from every Pixar film through 2007’s Ratatouille. Both parks premiered a new version of Playhouse Disney Live on Stage, which now features characters and stories from more current Playhouse Disney shows, and High School Musical 3: Senior Year: Right Here, Right Now!, an updated version of the HSM street show that features music from the third film. Both Hollywood Studios and California Adventure also opened Toy Story Mania!, an interactive “E-Ticket” extravaganza that involves its riders into the storyline with favorite Toy Story characters. This February, Hollywood Studios will open the American Idol Experience, a new attraction that will give guests the opportunity to be in the spotlight and go through a pretend American Idol audition. In the forthcoming years at California Adventure, guests will get to see World of Color (a new nighttime water show), a new Cars-themed area of the park that will feature an outstanding new “E-Ticket” attraction, and a new Little Mermaid Fantasyland-like dark ride.









The new ride Toy Story Mania! opened at both Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World and Disney’s California Adventure at Disneyland in summer 2008.

Hollywood Studios and California Adventure weren’t the only Disney parks to receive new additions and celebrations in 2008, however. Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrated its 10th anniversary on Earth Day with a special ceremony and presentation. At both the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and at Disneyland, guests got the opportunity to meet Tinker Bell and the other Disney Fairies in a specially-themed meet and greet area called Pixie Hollow.

Walt Disney World and Disneyland guests can now meet (top, from left): Silvermist, Tinker Bell, Iridessa, as well as (bottom, from left): Rosetta and Fawn in new specially-themed meet-and-greet areas.

Although there were some excellent new additions to the parks in 2008, there were also numerous cutbacks that took place, as well. Although the economy isn’t significantly hurting Disney, as a result of the economy, Disney decided to take away some of their live entertainment offerings. The Princess Fantasy Faire at Disneyland closed its show (though the meet and greet still remains), Woody’s Cowboy Camp and the Main Street Family Fun Day Parade no longer perform at the Magic Kingdom, Sounds Dangerous is now a seasonal attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Fantasmic! only performs several nights a week now (instead of the previous nightly performance) at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Pocahontas and Her Forest Friends has closed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. However, the economy’s results on the Disney parks aren’t all negative. Because of the slightly lower attendance, Disney has made some rather nice discounts. On select dates from February 9-April 4 and April 19-June 27, if guests purchase 4 nights at a Walt Disney World resort (with park tickets), they get 3 more nights (again with park tickets) for free. Also, lower attendance means less people in the parks, resulting in shorter ride lines. Now that’s not to say that the parks will be completely empty. Although the recession certainly isn’t helping Disney, Disney’s not in a dire desperate mode. There will still be people in the parks, just on a slightly lower level.

Fantasmic! now does not perform nightly at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Also, as part of the 2009 “What will you celebrate?” promotion, any guest can get into a Disneyland or Walt Disney World park on their birthday for free. Although this particular celebration doesn’t have as many attraction openings in its lineup as previous promotions, there are a few additions to look forward to. On January 23, an updated parade premiered at the Magic Kingdom called the Celebrate Dreams Come True Parade. The third version of the Share a Dream Come True Parade, the parade features classic Disney characters in a dazzling display of Disney magic. Additionally, on January 25, Dream Along with Mickey returned from its almost-three-week-long refurbishment. Apparently some stage work was done to the Castle Forecourt stage. It is unknown at this time if the refurbishment involved any changes to the show itself. Sometime within the next few weeks, the interactive Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure will officially open at Epcot. The attraction involves guests participating in somewhat of a scavenger hunt throughout the different country pavilions of Epcot as they use their “Kimmunicator” to help solve a mission. On February 6, “it’s a small world” will re-open after a lengthy refurbishment at Disneyland and will feature appearances by classic Disney characters in “small world” form. However, these changes have not been made to the Florida version of the ride. On February 14, the aforementioned American Idol Experience will debut at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Sometime in February, the new Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It street party will debut at the Magic Kingdom. In addition to the daily afternoon parade, the new show will feature favorite characters as they invite guests to party with them. A similar, though different, show will debut at Disneyland on March 27 called “Celebrate! A Street Party.” On April 1, the Celebration Roundup and Barbecue will open at Disneyland’s Big Thunder Ranch and will offer celebrations, food, and Disney character appearances. Sometime in April, Stitch’s SuperSonic Celebration will premiere in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Featuring interactive celebrating and Stitch, the show will take place on a newly-constructed stage in the middle of Tomorrowland. Additionally, the nearby Galaxy Palace Theater (which hosts school band and dance performances) is closing. It is unknown at this time if Mickey’s Twas the Night Before Christmas show (which normally performs there during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party) will be effected by this change. Lastly, Space Mountain will temporarily close at the Magic Kingdom on April 19 for a long refurbishment. It will reopen in late 2009. It is unknown right now what exactly the changes will include.

The Celebrate Dreams Come True Parade is now performing daily at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida.


Are you 23?

Now here’s the puzzle that has tons of Disney fans scratching their heads. A few weeks ago, Disney launched a new website at www.disney.com/23. If you’ll open the website, you’ll see that words appear on a black screen reading “Are you 23? Find out March 10.” Then Tinker Bell comes and brings a countdown clock to March 10. What does this all mean? Nobody quite seems to know for sure. I don’t have any idea as to what it could be. It definitely is a clever way to disguise whatever it is the website is advertising, and has many Disney fans interested in what this is all about.

The Big Finish
That wraps up what was accomplished by the Walt Disney Company in 2008, as well as what you can expect from them in 2009. There are sure to be plenty unmentioned happenings along the way as well, but the products and events Disney has already announced has me getting excited as to what sort of Disney wonderment we’ll be reflecting about this time next year.

Happy New Year from BlakeOnline and have a Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious 2009!

By Blake; posted February 1, 2009. All images (C) Disney.

Channel Flippin’ – "A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa" Review

December 23, 2008


The Muppets’ renaissance to stardom continues with a much-needed breath of fresh air in their new Christmas special, “Letters to Santa.”


By Blake

Originally posted December 22, 2008.

It’s been a long time since I was completely content with a new Muppets production. The short new videos appearing lately on YouTube and on the new Muppets.com have been great, but if the Muppets are supposed to have really won audiences over by the time their new movie hits theaters in 2010, I knew it was going to take a lot more than short Internet clips to make viewers want more Muppets. The Studio DC specials that aired in August and October of this year did their job to get younger audiences interested in the Muppets, but were somewhat painful for longtime Muppet fans to watch.

Thankfully, Kermit and the crew were back to their classic flair and charm in the superb new Christmas special, A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, which aired Wednesday, December 17, 2008 on NBC.

In the new special, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, the Great Gonzo, Pepe the King Prawn, and Rizzo the Rat are getting ready to embark on a tropical vacation for Christmas, but put their plans on hold when they accidentally forget to mail a letter to Santa written by Gonzo’s friend and neighbor Claire (played by Cory in the House’s Madison Pettis). Since it’s Christmas Eve and the post offices have closed for the holiday, the Muppet bunch decides that the only way that Claire’s Christmas wish can come true is if they deliver her letter to Santa personally. You can imagine the hilarity that comes from them as they make their way to the North Pole on a quest to find Santa.


It seems that every Muppet imaginable has come out of extinction to make an appearance in Letters to Santa. It actually reminded me a lot of the Muppet*Vision 3-D attraction at the Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s California Adventure theme parks. The two productions’ plots are completely different, but it seemed like they were very similar in making sure that each Muppet character had their own bit of screen time, even if it was brief. We get a great short sampling into each character’s personality that I hope will be repeated in more force in the upcoming Muppet feature-length film. Sam the Eagle’s quick and random appearance was hysterical.

Even the lesser-known characters that have been absent for several years returned, including Kermit’s nephew Robin, Lew Zealand (with his boomerang fish), Beauregard the custodian, Crazy Harry, Bobo the Bear, and a few others. The only smaller characters that I didn’t spot were Sal Minella and Johnny Fiama, who I didn’t even notice were gone until I really thought about who was absent.

Muppet veteran Kirk Thatcher serves as director for Letters to Santa, and he has previously directed It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz and written Muppet Treasure Island, as well as episodes of Muppets Tonight and Dinosaurs.

Another Muppet favorite, Paul Williams, wrote the four original songs that appear in Letters to Santa. Williams first worked with the Muppets in a guest appearance on The Muppet Show, and later wrote the songs for Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, The Muppet Movie, and The Muppets Christmas Carol. I’m not sure why, but it had somehow registered in my head that this new special wasn’t going to be a musical, so I was very pleasantly surprised when Kermit started singing the opening song, “Delivering Christmas,” which turned out to be my favorite of the new songs.

The writers of the special include Paul Williams, along with Saturday Night Live writers Hugh Fink, Scott Ganz, and Andrew Samson. They add mature, but definitely not inappropriate, jokes and gags that make the special appealing to any age group. Pepe and Rizzo especially seemed to be given extra care when being written for – they’re the center of many of the jokes and apply most of the comedic side of the special.

As with any Muppet production, celebrity cameos are around every corner in Letters to Santa. Embarrassingly, the only cameos I recognized were Madison Pettis, Whoopi Goldberg, and Nathan Lane. However, many other celebrities appeared that I didn’t recognize, including Jane Krakowski, Uma Thurman, and more.

Not too lengthy to prolong itself or its storyline, though not too short to leave us wanting much more, A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa is honestly one of the best Muppet productions I’ve seen in years. Filled with all of the favorite Muppet characters and featuring a healthy balance of comedy with heartfelt emotions, there’s not much to criticize. And considering the relatively quick amount of time that it took to pull the special together, it’s amazing that it turned out the way it did. If this rate continues in the quality that the Muppets’ works are producing, then I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeves – er, paws – for 2010.

How do I rank A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa? (Bolded is my choice.)
  • Utterly repulsive
  • Blech
  • Not good
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Brilliant

A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa will most likely please: Muppet Fans – Preschoolers (ages 3-4) – Kids (ages 5-7) – Older Kids (ages 8-10) – Young Adults – Adults – Old Folks

If you missed A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, you can catch it again on Hulu through December 31, 2008. So hurry if you missed it or if you want to see it again!

By Blake; originally posted December 22, 2008. All images (C) Disney.

What’s On Today/Tonight, 12/17

December 17, 2008

What’s On Today/Tonight, December 17, 2008

All times are Eastern Times.

It’s another great night! The Muppets are BACK on NBC at 8!

  • The Polar Express*, Disney Channel, 12:00pm
  • The Lost Holiday: The Jim and Suzanne Shemwell Story, Lifetime, 2:00pm
  • Anabelle’s Wish, Toon Disney, 5:00pm and 9:00pm
  • Timon & Pumbaa: Don’t Be Elfish*, Toon Disney, 6:15pm
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series: Topeer*, Toon Disney, 6:30pm
  • I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, ABC Family, 7:00pm
  • NEW! A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa*, NBC, 8:00pm
  • iCarly: iChristmas*, Nickelodeon, 8:00pm
  • Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Animated Special)*, Cartoon Network, 8:00pm
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius: Holly Jolly Jimmy, Nickelodeon, 8:30pm
  • A Scooby-Doo Christmas*, Cartoon Network, 8:30pm
  • Snow 2 Brain Freeze, ABC Family, 9:00pm
  • When Angels Come to Town, Hallmark Channel, 9:00pm
  • The Christmas Gift, Hallmark Channel, 11:00pm

*I’d watch (or record) this Christmas special if I were you!

Channel Flippin’ Reminder – "A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa"

December 17, 2008


It’s almost time for the first Muppets Christmas adventure in six years.

By Blake

Originally posted on December 16, 2008.

Although it will be posted in the daily “What’s On Tonight” feature here on BlakeOnline, I wanted to post an extra reminder that the all-new Muppets special A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa will air Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 8pm Eastern Time on NBC! All of your favorite Muppets, plus a few special guests, are sure to deliver some Muppety wackiness and plenty of Christmas cheer in this anticipated special.

You can see a sneak peek of the new special at the official Muppets website, http://www.muppets.com/. While you’re there, you can also check out the characters’ individual web pages, which feature many newly-created videos. Also, if you’re a Muppet fan, you may want to take a visit to http://www.muppetnewsflash.com/, an excellent source for Muppet news.

Part of why the new special was made was to get the public interested in the Muppets again to get them warmed up for the new Muppets movie, which will be hitting theaters sometime in 2010.

Remember to tune in to A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, Wednesday, December 17 at 8pm Eastern Time on NBC!!!

By Blake; originally posted on December 16, 2008. All images (C) Disney.

Channel Flippin’ – The 82nd Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

November 28, 2008

This year packed another impressive parade filled with corporate advertisements and family entertainment.

By Blake

Originally posted November 28, 2008.

Well, another Thanksgiving has come and gone and by today I’m sure you all feel stuffed, regretful (for your stomach’s sake), satisfied, and – I hope – thankful. With every Thanksgiving comes the celebrity-studded lineup of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This year marked the parade’s 82nd run and the 150th anniversary of Macy’s itself. As usual, Today’s anchors hosted the parade, Matt Lauer, Meredith Vierra, and Al Roker.

Although there were plenty of bee-boppin’ teen groups present, today I’ll be highlighting what I thought were the parade’s best points, as well as the Disney factors presented during the show.

While last year’s Mary Poppins performance of “Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious” dazzled the parade’s Broadway hour, this year the cast of The Little Mermaid performed “Under the Sea” in the same grand style. Although Ariel doesn’t sing even a word in the entire song, Sierra Boggess was indeed present to perform the title character, as was Titus Burgess as Sebastian. It was quite a performance, and I must say that those performers must have been COLD, especially Ariel!

After the Broadway performances were over and shortly after the parade officially kicked off, Miley Cyrus performed the song “I Thought I Lost You” from the new Disney animated film Bolt. Although the song is performed as a duet between Cyrus and John Travolta in the film, Travolta was not present during the parade. Miley Cyrus performed the song on a new Bolt float, accompanied by built-in balloons of the characters Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino. While I initially thought that the actual walk-around versions of the characters (like the ones currently at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World) would be present, I suppose the balloons would attract more attention. Nevertheless, it was a nice performance.


The next memorable performance that I recall was the Sesame Street number. Currently in its 39th season (and having been in the Macy’s Parade for 12 years, including this year), the cast of the show (with special guest pianist Lang Lang) performed the song “Songs,” which I remembered from the 1999 TV special Elmopalooza. All of the lovable Sesame Street Muppets were present, including Big Bird, Elmo, Zoey, Ernie, Bert, Oscar, the fairly new Abby Cadabby, and many more.

A little while later came American Idol runner-up David Archuleta, performing his hit single “Crush,” which is featured on his new self-titled debut album. While I was a little puzzled as to why David Cook, the American Idol winner, did not also perform in the parade, I was satisfied to learn later on from a commercial for Christmas in Rockefeller Center that he would be singing on that this Wednesday.

Directly following Archuleta was the all-new Buzz Lightyear balloon!!! Toy Story being one of my favorite films of all time, I was very pleased when I found out that Buzz was getting balloon treatment. Buzz was featured in the parade to promote the October 2009 3-D re-release of Toy Story, the February 2010 3-D re-release of Toy Story 2, and the June 2010 debut of Toy Story 3. Buzz will most likely be featured in next year’s parade, as well, to continue that promotion. I had read on Mouse Planet’s WDW Park Update this week that Toy Story director John Lasseter was one of the many “handlers” carrying Buzz along the parade route, though the cameras didn’t show him.


A while later came Miranda Cosgrove, of Drake & Josh and iCarly fame, who performed her song “About You Now.”

Later on came the Kermit the Frog balloon, and even later came the real-life Kermit, performing “I Believe” with some kids from Camp Broadway. Pulling off a touching performance as always, Kermit was wonderful, and left a nice segue into the anticipated arrival of Santa Claus. Kermit was present to promote the all-new Muppets Christmas special A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, which premieres Wednesday, December 17 at 8pm eastern time on NBC. A small trailer for the special was shown during the parade, and it looks like it’s really going to be a hilariously funny adventure for Kermit and the crew.

Capping off the parade as the second-to-last performance before Santa’s arrival was Kristen Chenoweth, Broadway and film celebrity who rode upon the Care Bears float. Although she sang a Christmas song in the parade, she has several connections to Disney. She was in The Wonderful World of Disney’s remake of The Music Man, she performed the Oscar-nominated song “That’s How You Know” from Enchanted this year at the Academy Awards, she currently voices Rosetta the Fairy in the Tinker Bell movies, and she’s reported to be the voice of the title character in the upcoming 2010 Disney animated movie Rapunzel.

The last performance of the parade was Andy Williams, singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” It was quite a fitting way to cap off the parade, and, of course, next came the arrival of Santa Claus!!! Accompanied by Mrs. Claus, Santa seemed extra jolly and was waving to everyone as his sleigh passed by.

This year’s parade was a wonderful way to spend Thanksgiving morning. While I don’t think it’s fair to compare one year’s parade to another since they’re all relatively similar, I did enjoy it thoroughly and it had a little sampling of each of my favorite types of entertainment – Disney animation, American Idol, and the Muppets. If you missed it, then I think it’s your loss, as the parade will most likely not be re-broadcasted. But don’t get down on yourself if you happened to miss the parade – it was simply the beginning of a brilliant season of holiday entertainment to come. We’ve got plenty of Christmas fun to look forward to, including re-airing of classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and A Charlie Brown Christmas, new performances like Christmas in Rockefeller Center and Greatest Holiday Moments, and all-new Christmas specials like Merry Christmas Drake & Josh and A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa. I can’t wait!!! Merry Christmas, everyone!

By Blake; originally posted November 28, 2008. All images (C) Disney.